Top 10 Things to Do on an Island in the Middle of New York City
By Greg Goodman
I grew up on a small island in the middle of New York City’s East River.
Sandwiched in between Queens and Manhattan, Roosevelt Island is two miles long and 800 foot wide. As a kid in the 1980s there were only 6,000ish residents on “the Roc.”
Today, this hidden New York City gem is home to nearly double that, and the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city next door. Once there, here are some of my favorite things to do.
1. Take one of the only aerial tramways used for public transportation in America.
Opened in 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tram shuttles passengers from Manhattan to the Roc every seven minutes. Traveling across the East River and parallel to the Queensboro Bridge, the Tram offers riders the most spectacular and sweeping view of New York City imaginable: from 250 feet above the ground.
2. Fly a kite in a park next to a historical Lighthouse
Located at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island, Blackwell Island Lighthouse Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. With plentiful free barbeque pits, grassy fields, cool winds and an incredible view, it’s a picnicker’s delight. For extra ambiance, head there in the fall when the leaves are changing.
3. Explore 150 Year Old Ruins
In the mid-1800s, Roosevelt Island (then known as Blackwell Island and Welfare Island) was home to insane asylums, prisons, nursing residences and hospitals. While most of these buildings have been lost, the Renwick Smallpox Hospital ruins have been preserved at the southern tip of the Island and now are surrounded by a beautiful park.
4. Gaze out at the city skyline from the top floor of an apartment building
Many of the tall apartment buildings’ top floors open up to sweeping panoramic vistas of Roosevelt Island, the Queensboro Bridge, Manhattan and Queens. Just follow someone into the lobby, hop in an elevator and head up.
5. Walk or bike the road that loops around Roosevelt Island
Spanning from the United Nations to New York’s Upper West Side, Roosevelt Island offers a different view from every part. There’s no better way to see it all than to take the four+ mile loop around the whole place: except maybe from the Tram, which you’ve already done!
6. See Pink During the Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year in late-March or April, the entire island blooms into a cloud of cherry blossoms. There’s no better time to take a romantic stroll with that special someone or to picnic under a natural pink canopy.
7. Shoot Hoops, Play Ball or Enjoy a Park
While the amount of green space on Roosevelt Island has greatly diminished since I was a kid, it’s still got far more places to play sports than the rest of New York City. So when you come by for a visit, don’t forget your sneakers: you usually can find someone playing and join in.
8. Explore a Late-19th Century Church
In the middle of Roosevelt Island, the late-Victorian Gothic Chapel of the Good Shepherd greets visitors of all religions. First opened in 1889, several recent renovations ensure that it’s a must-see during your visit.
9. Wander Around at Night
10. Ponder the Coexistence of Nature and Suburbia in the Middle of New York City
Perhaps my favorite part of growing up on Roosevelt Island was how it’s a small slice of suburban living – apartment style – in the middle of New York City. Every acre is surrounded by parks, trees, nature, animals and a flowing river. Tranquility is easy to find, yet the hustle and bustle of Manhattan is one tram ride or subway stop away. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s Roosevelt Island.
About the Author:
Greg Goodman has lived in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Nicaragua, India and Thailand, with stops of all durations in between. Along the way, he documents the journey in the online magazine of his life: Adventures of a GoodMan. Through vibrant photography, storytelling and multimedia, Greg tries to answer the age-old question: I traveled…now what.
Web Site: http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com